France and China look to lead groups in Overwatch World Cup Shanghai stage

The first Overwatch World Cup group stages begin July 14.

Image via Blizzard Entertainment

It’s time for Overwatch’s national rosters to compete for an international title. The Overwatch World Cup Shanghai group stages begin July 14.

Team France—the entire Rogue lineup—is the early favorite heading into the weekend, but the rest of Group B will be vying for second place and entrance into the playoffs. Over in Group A, China looks like the early leader, though anything can happen on Overwatch’s largest stage of the year. The top two teams from the Shanghai qualifier will move on to the main event at BlizzCon.

A lot is on the line for the eight teams heading into the Overwatch World Cup group stages. Though many of these national teams field professional Overwatch players, a few teams will be seeing a big stage for the first time. The surprise of playing against unfamiliar teams has the potential to create massive upsets across the group stages. Here’s a rundown of the groups ahead of the July 14 start.

Group A—China looks to lead out the group

Image via Blizzard Entertainment

China, Hong Kong, Norway, and Romania head into the Overwatch World Cup stage in Group A—with China kicking things off as the number one seed. Last year’s Chinese roster took fourth in the overall tournament, and this year’s team is looking to go even further. Fielding players from two of China’s top two Overwatch teams, LGD Gaming and Invictus Gaming Ice, China looks strong coming into Group A.

The core roster of four LGD Gaming players are coming off a successful Overwatch Premier Series Spring season, where they took second, only falling to 1246 in the finals. The rest of the Overwatch World Cup team placed fifth with Invictus Gaming Ice.

Hong Kong, Norway, and Romania each look strong in their own rights, though it’s anyone’s game when it comes to rounding out Group A. Norway fields a mixture of talented professional players—from teams like Team Expert, Ninjas with Attitude, and Toronto Esports—but we’ve yet to see how the team plays as a unit. Hong Kong, however, is coming into Group A seeded one slot ahead of Norway. As a team, their players will be much less known on an international scale. Their most notable player, from Hong Kong Attitude, will likely lead the team in Group A.

Romania enters Group A with the 32nd seed, led by its most known player Mihail Cristian “Meza” Păunescu on tank. Like with Hong Kong, the rest of the Romanian team is likely unknown on an international scale.

Group B—France is an easy favorite for the whole tournament

Image via Blizzard Entertainment

Coming into Group B of the Overwatch World Cup with the full Rogue lineup, Team France begins as the early leader. They aren’t the only country to elect a professional roster as the entire national Overwatch team, but they’re definitely the most notable. The players of Team France have competed on an international scale, taking on the best in North America, Europe, and Asia. Though they were knocked out of OGN Overwatch Apex early, the team is looking strong: Rogue is just coming off a win at the Overwatch BEAT Invitational over the past weekend.

Their team cohesion puts them in a dominating position not only in Group B, but in the Overwatch World Cup at large. Taking the first slot in Group B is likely a given, leaving Denmark, Thailand, and Argentina to fight for the second space. Denmark is in a good position, coming into Group B with four Team Singularity players and one former player. The last player is flex Mads “fischer” Jehg from Hammers Esports. As with Rogue, it’s a certain advantage to come into the tournament with experience playing as a team.

Thailand’s lineup fields players from across the country’s professional scene, taking on four players from newly signed MEGA Thunder—formerly known as Fireball—and Team EnVyUs’ Pongphop “Mickie” Rattanasangchod. Meanwhile, Group B looks tough for Argentina, which is entering the tournament with a squad of mostly unknown players.

The Overwatch World Cup Shanghai stage begins July 14 and runs through July 16. The top two teams from each group will advance to the Shanghai playoffs, where the two teams heading to the main event at BlizzCon in November will be determined.

France heads into the event as a clear leader, but anything can happen throughout the rest of the field.